Sometimes an indie game comes out of seemingly nowhere and blows up on the scene, gaining significant attention and much praise. Orcs Must Die! was a perfect example. The game, which was largely unknown until just before its release, gained numerous positive reviews and did so well that its developer has released a sequel just nine months later.
As good as Orcs Must Die! was, it was a little thin on features. This has been addressed with the new version. This is an awesome game with broad appeal – and the Orcs sure aren’t going to kill themselves!
Taking The Boring Out Of Tower Defense
Orcs Must Die! 2 is part of the tower defense genre, which is a bit like an insult. Most games in the genre play like a terribly paced puzzler – the player places turrets and then has to wait twenty minutes to see if they did their job. It’s not unusual for games in this genre to include a fast forward button, and that feature is sorely missed when it’s not offered.
Robot Entertainment solves this problem by tacking on a healthy dose of third-person action. You’re no longer commanding from the stratosphere. You’re on the ground, with a gun or magic wand, going toe-to-toe with the orcs attempting to bypass your defense. They’re no idle threat, either. They’ll attack you, stun you, poison you. You can die, and while you do respawn, you also lose points.
As you level up you obtain new weapons and abilities. One of my favorite is a Wind Belt that pushes back enemies in an arc. If they happen to be standing by a cliff, well, orcs don’t fly so well.
Orcs Must Die! (With Friends)
The original game was great, but missing an important feature – multi-player. A game that combines action and strategy begs to be played with friends, but that just wasn’t possible.
Now, it is. And Robot Entertainment didn’t stop there. They added an entirely new character, the Sorceress, who has a few unique abilities and weapons. Most of the same traps and weapons are available to both characters but the special options add additional flavor.
Co-op isn’t just an afterthought, either. It’s arguably the focus of the game. Most of the maps include multiple lanes that are best covered by multiple characters and there’s great banter between the two. It’s easily one of the best co-op experiences to come out this year.
The Right Flavor
Another problem with the tower defense genre is its lack of flavor. Most involve some sort of vague, powerful threat which is never really explained but provides a wide variety of opponents. You slaughter them, but you may not understand them.
That’s not a problem here. There are orcs. You must kill them. Why? Because they’re freaking orcs! Haven’t you ever read a fantasy novel before? These guys were cool to kill way before zombies.
It helps that the game includes wonderfully cartoonish 3D graphics and witty banter from both the playable characters and the unfortunate orcs. I’ve probably heard an orc cry “Mommmmyyy…” a hundred times, but I still can’t help but smile.
A Good Trap Is Its Own Reward
It’s wonderful to see a good plan come together. That goes double when your plan includes spring-loaded floor spikes, an automated pusher trap and a wall of blades.
There are nearly no automated turrets in this game, and that’s to its credit. You can’t just plop down some machine guns and wait for them to cut down opponents. Placement is crucial and the interaction between different traps becomes its own challenge. Should you push orcs into a wall of spinning blades or shoot spikes through their feet before dousing them with flames?
All of this wouldn’t matter if the animations weren’t great, but they are. Thrown in a decent physics engine and you have the makings of emergent comedy. My personal favorite trap is the Haymaker, a spinning club that hangs from the ceiling and sends orcs flying in all directions. It’s effective. And hilarious.
Orcs Die, Your Wallet Lives
Orcs Must Die! 2 is only $14.99 on Steam. That’s not a sale price. That’s full retail. You can also buy a two-pack for $24.99 and gift the second game to a friend for some co-op action.
This is not a long game if you simply play through the campaign levels on default difficulty (I’d say about 10 to 14 hours) but there’s a good forty hours of gameplay for players who want to achieve a perfect rating on all the campaign and Endless Mode (think survival) maps. That’s a heck of a lot of stuff to do for $14.99.